by Jennifer S. Kornegay
Farmers’ markets often prove perfect places for bakers to rise. Discover how four all-star bakers took their passion from farmers’ market stands to storefronts.
Loaf | Durham, North Carolina
Got his start: Durham Farmers’ Market
Ron Graff understands the science behind baking as well as anyone—maybe even better. Before opening Loaf, he worked as a neurobiologist and baked bread at home mainly as a break from his job. Then he spent a few days at an artisan bread bakers’ festival and wondered if others might be as interested in his bread as he was.
He applied and was accepted at the Durham Farmers’ Market where he sold 144 loaves in an hour on his first Saturday in 2008. For three years, he spent weekdays conducting experiments and writing grants, and spent Friday nights and the wee hours of Saturday mornings baking bread for his wife, Jaimie, to set up, still warm, at the outdoor market. (She was Loaf’s smiling face at the market as opposed to Ron’s bleary-eyed one.)
Demand increased, and while having his own store was never the plan, his baking soon expanded beyond the boundaries of a “hobby.” He finally traded his lab coat for an apron full time, opening Loaf in downtown Durham in 2011. He believes Loaf wouldn’t have been possible without the market, and it’s one reason he’s still there. Another reason is catching up with the many friends he’s made there through the years. Ron’s diverse selection of breads includes everything from dark, hearty buckwheat bursting at its seams to fluffy yet dense challah, and sweet-tart, fruit-filled stollen—all joined by pastries and cookies. But bread is still Loaf’s stock-in-trade, and baking’s familiar rhythm continues to give Ron the reprieve that first attracted him. “On a hectic day, you put some dough on the bench, and you know what has to be done,” he says. “You just start working it, and it pulls your focus off trivial things.”
Known for: The Market Loaf, a 2.5-pound, darkly crusted, open-crumb bread made with flour grown and freshly ground in North Carolina.